ORG 6504 / 2

 Consider the following statement: “Top leaders adjust their leadership style in order to best influence their followers.” Before conducting any research to evaluate the efficacy of this statement, jot down whether or not you inherently agree or disagree with it. Include an example to support your perspective. Next, review the discussions on situational, charismatic, and transformational leadership found in the Yukl (2013) text. Which of these models best relates to your perspective on leadership? Also, locate two additional sources (other than the required readings) to support or refute your initial reaction to the above quotation. 

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“Supportive leadership (or “supporting”) includes a wide variety of behaviors that show consideration, acceptance, and concern for the needs and feelings of other people. Supportive leadership helps to build and maintain effective interpersonal relationships. A manager who is considerate and friendly toward people is more likely to win their friendship and loyalty. The emotional ties that are formed make it easier to gain cooperation and support from people on whom the manager must rely to get the work done. It is more satisfying to work with someone who is friendly, cooperative, and supportive than with someone who is cold and impersonal, or worse, hostile, and uncooperative. Improvements in job satisfaction are likely to result in less absenteeism, less turnover, less alcoholism, and less drug abuse (Brief, Schuler, & Van Sell, 1981; Ganster, Fusilier, & Mayes, 1986; Kessler, Price, & Wortman, 1985). Supportive leadership may increase a subordinate’s acceptance of the leader, trust of the leader, and willingness to do extra things for the leader.

Some forms of supporting behavior increase subordinate self-confidence and reduce the amount of stress in the job. Stress is reduced by showing appreciation, listening to problems and complaints, providing assistance when necessary, expressing confidence in the person, doing things to make the work environment more enjoyable, and buffering the person from unnecessary demands by outsiders. Stress is increased by making unreasonable demands, pressuring the person to work faster, being overly critical, and insisting on compliance with unnecessary bureaucratic requirements. Although results in research on the effects of considerate, supportive leadership are not consistent, it is likely this type of behavior will improve subordinate satisfaction and performance in many situations.

Guidelines for Supporting

The following guidelines indicate ways that managers can use supporting effectively with subordinates and others (see Table 3-7 for summary).

Show acceptance and positive regard.

Due to the considerable position power of most managers, subordinates are especially sensitive to indications of acceptance and approval (or rejection and criticism). Outbursts of anger, harsh criticism, and personal insults are stressful regardless of the source, but especially when the source is someone who has considerable position power. There are many ways to show acceptance and concern for people in your day-to-day behavior. Supportive leadership means being polite and considerate. Maintain a pleasant, cheerful disposition. Spend some time with subordinates to get to know them better and find out about their interests, recreational activities, family, and hobbies. Remember prior conversations with the person, including details about the person’s family and activities. If necessary, keep a notebook with this type of information about each subordinate. Be discreet about things that are told to you in confidence (don’t spread gossip about the personal lives of subordinates or team members).

Provide sympathy and support when the person is anxious or upset.



Show understanding and sympathy for someone who is upset by stress and difficulties in the work. Take time to listen to the person’s concerns. Try to understand why the person is anxious or frustrated, and when appropriate, offer coaching, advice, and personal assistance.

For example, pitching in to help subordinates do their work when the workload is unusually high is an effective way to demonstrate support. Job stress for subordinates can be reduced by buffering them from frivolous complaints and unrealistic demands made by outsiders or higher management.

Bolster the person’s self-esteem and confidence.



Indicate that the person is a valued member of the organization. Express confidence in the person when assigning a difficult task. When someone is discouraged due to job problems and setbacks in a difficult task, supportive managers will say things to help boost a person’s self-confidence. When mistakes or performance problems occur, supportive managers deal with them in a constructive manner instead of “blowing up” and criticizing the person harshly. It is important to indicate a sincere desire to help someone learn from mistakes and overcome performance problems.

Be willing to help with personal problems.

Effective managers are willing to help an employee deal with personal problems (e.g., family problems, financial problems, substance abuse) when assistance is requested or it is clearly needed because the person’s performance is being adversely affected. Examples of things that a manager can do include helping the person identify and express concerns and feelings, helping the person understand the reasons for a personal problem, providing factual information that will help the person, referring the person to professionals who can provide assistance, helping the person identify alternatives, and offering advice (Burke, Wier, & Duncan, 1976; Kaplan & Cowen, 1981).

Developing Subordinate Skills

Developing includes several managerial practices that are used to increase a subordinate’s skills and facilitate job adjustment and career advancement. Key component behaviors include mentoring, coaching, and providing developmental opportunities. Developing is usually done with a subordinate, but it may also be done with a peer, a colleague, or even with a new, inexperienced boss. Responsibility for developing subordinates can be shared with other members of the work unit who are competent and experienced. For example, some leaders assign an experienced subordinate to serve as a mentor and coach for a new employee.

The descriptive research suggests that most effective managers take an active role in developing the skills and confidence of subordinates (Bradford & Cohen, 1984; McCauley, 1986). Developing is usually regarded as primarily a relations-oriented behavior, but it can also contribute to the attainment of task-related objectives, such as improved quantity and quality of employee performance. Developing offers a variety of potential benefits for the manager, the subordinate, and the organization. One benefit is to foster mutually cooperative relationships. Potential benefits for subordinates include better job adjustment, more skill learning, greater self-confidence, and faster career advancement. The leader can gain a sense of satisfaction from helping others grow and develop. Potential benefits for the organization include higher employee commitment, higher performance, and better preparation of people to fill positions of greater responsibility in the organization as openings occur.

Guidelines for Developing

Guidelines for developing subordinate skills and confidence are described in this section and summarized in Table 3-8.

Show concern for each person’s development. The most basic principle of mentoring is to have a genuine concern about the personal development and career progress of subordinates. A manager should encourage each subordinate to set ambitious career goals that are realistic in terms of the person’s ability and consistent with the person’s interests. Encourage the person to set specific goals for self-development. Respond enthusiastically to requests for advice or assistance. Provide social–emotional support as well as career-related support.

Help the person identify ways to improve performance.

Before trying to improve task performance, it is essential to discover what is being done correctly and incorrectly. One diagnostic approach is to jointly review step by step how the person carries out the task to determine whether any essential steps are omitted, unnecessary steps are included, or key steps are performed incorrectly. When discussing ways to improve performance, it is usually better to begin by inviting the person to do a self-assessment rather than by making your own diagnosis of the person’s performance. The person may already be aware of weaknesses and will be less defensiveness if asked to identify them rather than being told by you. However, in some cases, the person does not understand why his or her performance is not better. Even a highly motivated person may be unable to improve beyond the current level of performance without assistance. When appropriate, suggest additional things the person should consider to improve performance.

Be patient and helpful when providing coaching.

An essential quality for effective coaching is patience. Don’t expect people to learn everything immediately or do everything right the first time. It takes time to learn complex skills, and learning is inhibited when someone is anxious and frustrated. A person who is experiencing difficulty in doing a task will become even more anxious and upset if you are critical and impatient. Be helpful and supportive when a person is frustrated and discouraged by slow progress or repeated mistakes. For example, tell the person how you experienced the same frustrations in mastering a particularly difficult aspect of the task. If the person lacks self-confidence, say you are confident that he or she will be able to learn a new procedure or skill.

Provide career guidance and advice about how to deal with career problems, such as lack of advancement, interpersonal conflicts, burnout, and mid-career crisis. Many subordinates need help in developing specific strategies for achieving their career objectives. It may be useful to identify career paths and promotion opportunities in the organization and explain the advantages and pitfalls of various assignments or potential job changes. Share insights learned from experience with problems or choices similar to those now faced by a subordinate. If appropriate, introduce the person to other people in the organization who can be trusted to provide good career advice. To avoid being overbearing about career advice, ask a subordinate to indicate ways you can be helpful in the career planning process.

Encourage attendance at relevant training activities.

Another way to facilitate skill development by subordinates is to encourage them to attend relevant workshops and courses. Inform subordinates about developmental opportunities and explain why they are relevant to a subordinate’s needs, interests, and career ambitions. Encourage subordinates to take advantage of opportunities to attend assessment centers or multisource feedback workshops that provide useful feedback about strengths and weaknesses. Make it easier for subordinates to attend developmental activities by planning work schedules to allow time for them. If feasible, provide financial compensation to pay for outside courses. Bring in outside experts to conduct special training sessions for subordinates.

Provide opportunities to learn from experience.

Provide special projects and assignments that require the subordinate to assume new responsibilities and apply new skills. Some of these assignments may involve delegation of responsibilities previously carried out by the manager (e.g., prepare a budget, conduct a meeting, present a proposal to top management). Sometimes the best approach for developing skills is to assign a challenging task without giving detailed instructions, and allow the person to discover how to carry out the task and to deal with problems encountered along the way. In a developmental assignment, provide coaching when needed to help the person learn from successes and failures.

Encourage coaching by peers when appropriate.

The responsibility to develop subordinates may be shared with other members of the work unit who are competent and experienced. Peers are a valuable source of advice and support in organizations. Although coaching and mentoring by peers occurs informally, it can be encouraged and facilitated by the manager. One example is the practice of assigning a competent subordinate to serve as a mentor and coach for a new employee. It is also useful to have a subordinate with special knowledge coach other employees who are less experienced.

Promote the person’s reputation. A manager can promote the reputation of a subordinate by telling superiors and peers about the person’s achievements and expertise. It is also helpful to introduce the person to important people in the organization. A subordinate’s visibility and contacts can be enhanced by selecting the person to serve on committees or projects that provide an opportunity to interact with important people in the organization. High visibility assignments provide an opportunity for a subordinate to demonstrate competence in carrying out important responsibilities.

Providing Praise and Recognition

Recognizing involves giving praise and showing appreciation to others for effective performance, significant achievements, and important contributions to the organization. Although it is most common to think of recognition as being given by a manager to subordinates, this managerial practice can also be used with peers, superiors, and people outside the work unit. The primary purpose of recognizing, especially when used with subordinates, is to strengthen desirable behavior and task commitment. Recognizing is primarily a relations behavior, but like developing, it can contribute to the attainment of task objectives as well.

Three major forms of recognizing are praise, awards, and recognition ceremonies. Praise consists of oral comments, expressions, or gestures that acknowledge a person’s accomplishments and contributions. It is the easiest form of recognition, but it is under-utilized by many managers. Most praise is given privately, but it can be used in a public ritual or ceremony as well. Leaders usually have less discretion in the use of awards or recognition ceremonies, because organizations often have programs and policies specifying the criteria and procedures for this type of recognition. Nevertheless, even low-level leaders have options to be very creative about informal awards.

Awards include things such as a certificate of achievement, a letter of commendation, a plaque, a trophy, a medal, or a ribbon. Awards can be announced in many different ways, including an article in the company newsletter, a notice posted on the bulletin board, a picture of the person (e.g., “employee of the month”) hung in a prominent place, over a public address system, in regular meetings, and at special ceremonies or rituals. Giving formal awards is a symbolic act that communicates a manager’s values and priorities to people in the organization. Thus, it is important for awards to be based on meaningful criteria rather than favoritism or arbitrary judgments. An award that is highly visible allows others to share in the process of commending the recipient and showing appreciation for his or her contributions to the success of the organization. The basis for making the award is more important than the form of the award. Some managers are creative about using awards, and they look for new and unusual awards to use with “planned spontaneity.” Examples include home-baked bread, flowers, a bottle of wine, and a picture of the employee with the CEO.

A recognition ceremony ensures that an individual’s achievements are acknowledged not only by the manager but also by other members of the organization. Recognition ceremonies can be used to celebrate the achievements of a team or work unit as well as those of an individual. Special rituals or ceremonies to honor particular employees or teams can have strong symbolic value when attended by top management, because they demonstrate concern for the aspects of behavior or performance being recognized. Milliken & Company (Peters & Austin, 1985) use a unique version of a recognition ceremony.

Once each quarter a “Corporate Sharing Rally” is held to allow work teams to brag about their achievements and contributions. Each of the “fabulous bragging sessions” has a particular theme such as improved productivity, better product quality, or reduced costs. Attendance is voluntary, but hundreds of employees show up to hear teams make short five-minute presentations describing how they have made improvements relevant to the theme. Every participant receives a framed certificate, and the best presentations (determined by peer evaluation) get special awards. In addition to celebrating accomplishments and emphasizing key values (represented by the themes), these ceremonies increase the diffusion of innovative ideas within the company.

Most studies that measure contingent reward behavior with leader behavior questionnaires find a positive correlation with subordinate satisfaction, but results for subordinate performance are inconsistent (Podsakoff, Skoder & Tov, 1982; Podsakoff & Todor, 1985). Praise is often given along with tangible rewards, and in much of the research it is difficult to separate their effects. Another source of ambiguity is the limited influence of most managers on the distribution of tangible rewards (e.g., bonus, pay increase, promotion). Formal policies, incentive programs, and union contracts for determining employee compensation and benefits usually provide very limited reward power to managers at the lower and middle levels in large organizations (see Chapter 8). It is difficult to interpret the results from surveys that fail to take into account constraints on leader reward behavior and the effects of company policies and programs (Podsakoff, Todor, Grover, & Huber, 1984).

The results are easier to interpret in a survey study or incident study when respondents describe how their leader uses praise. Survey research on the effects of praise and recognition suggest that this type of behavior can be beneficial when used in a skillful way under favorable conditions (e.g., Kim & Yukl, 1995; Yukl et al., 1990). Descriptive studies in organizations suggest that effective leaders provide more recognition to subordinates for their achievements and contributions (Kouzes & Posner, 1987; Peters & Austin, 1985). In a rare field experiment on the effects of praise, Wikoff, Anderson, and Crowell (1983) found that increasing the use of praise by supervisors resulted in improved performance by their employees.

Guidelines for Recognizing

The following guidelines for recognizing are based on the research literature on positive reinforcement and the descriptive literature on practices of managers in effective organizations. The guidelines are concerned with the following questions: what to recognize, when to give recognition, who to recognize, and what form of recognition to use (see summary in Table 3-9).

Recognize a variety of contributions and achievements. Managers tend to think of recognition as appropriate only for major achievements, thereby limiting their opportunity to gain the benefits from this potent managerial practice. Recognition should be provided for a variety of other things, including demonstration of initiative and extra effort in carrying out an assignment or task; achievement of challenging performance goals and standards; personal sacrifices made to accomplish a task or objective; helpful suggestions and innovative ideas for improving efficiency, productivity, or the quality of the work unit’s products or services; special efforts to help someone else (e.g., coworker, customer) deal with a problem; and significant contributions made to the success of other individuals or teams.

Before recognition can be given for contributions and accomplishments, it is necessary to determine what things are important for the success of the work unit and consistent with the values and ideals of the organization. It is helpful to spend some time each day looking for examples of effective behavior to recognize. Many managers tend to notice and criticize ineffective behavior by subordinates or peers but fail to notice and praise effective behavior. It is also helpful to establish periodic awards, such as the “employee of the week,” that require a manager to spend some time on a regular basis looking for examples of effective performance among subordinates. Kouzes and Posner (1987) recommend setting a personal goal to find and praise at least one subordinate each day for some exemplary behavior or significant contribution.

Recognize improvements in performance.

Some managers believe that it is inappropriate to recognize performance improvements if an individual’s level of performance is still only average or substandard. However, some form of recognition for improvements is important to encourage and strengthen efforts toward additional improvement. Improvements can be recognized in a way that also communicates an expectation of continuing progress toward excellence. Recognition of improvement is especially relevant for new employees who are just learning a new task and for employees who do not have much self-confidence.

Recognize commendable efforts that failed.

Another fallacy is that recognition must be limited to successful efforts. Sometimes recognition is necessary for unsuccessful efforts to perform an important activity with a low probability of success. For example, Ore-Ida fires off a cannon to celebrate the “perfect failure” when research scientists terminate a project that is failing rather than prolong it at great cost to the company (Peters & Waterman, 1982). In another example, when someone suggests an improvement but it does not appear to be feasible, the manager should thank the person and explain why the idea could not be implemented in order to encourage further suggestions in the future.

Do not limit recognition to high-visibility jobs.

Everyone has a desire for recognition and appreciation, and even people who are a little embarrassed by recognition still desire and value it. It is a common tendency to provide recognition to individuals whose performance and achievements are highly visible, while largely ignoring people whose contributions are less visible and whose performance is harder to measure. It is better to recognize contributions and achievements by employees in all jobs, regardless of their status or visibility. Recognition should be given to people in support functions as well as to people in line functions with easily quantifiable performance, such as production and sales. With a little effort, it is possible to find examples of effective behavior and indicators of successful performance for any type of job.

Do not limit recognition to a few best performers.

The question of who to recognize also relates closely to the basis for giving recognition and the amount of recognition. Some managers believe that recognition should be limited to a few best performers in each type of job, thereby creating strong competition among people. However, Peters and Austin (1985) found that effective organizations recognize many winners rather than only a few. For example, it is better to provide awards for the top 75 percent of sales representatives than only for the top 10 percent. It is better to give an award to everyone who exceeds a challenging performance standard rather than to recognize only the person with the best performance. Extreme forms of competition create undesirable side effects, such as unwillingness to help competitors and resentment by people who perform exceptionally well but receive little or no recognition merely because someone else does a little better, often due to a lucky break. It is feasible to recognize many “heroes” or “winners” and still have different amounts of recognition for different levels of performance. Unless the people with the best performance receive a greater amount of recognition, their accomplishments will be unnecessarily diminished and the desired benefits from recognition may not be realized.

Provide specific recognition.

Praise is more likely to be successful if it is specific. Instead of a general comment commending someone for doing an assignment well, it is better to explain why you think the person did the assignment well. Indicate the basis for your judgment, point out examples of special effort or effective behavior, and explain why the person’s accomplishments are important to you and to the organization. In the case of praise for good suggestions, explain how the person’s ideas were used and how they benefited the organization or contributed to the success of a project. Specific praise is more believable than general praise, because it shows that you actually know what the person has done and have a sound basis for a positive evaluation. In addition, citing specific examples of effective behavior communicates what behaviors you value and guides the person toward repeating these behaviors in the future.

Provide timely recognition.

Research on positive reinforcement suggests that it is more effective when given reasonably soon after the behavior to be reinforced. Thus, managers should try to identify effective behavior and provide recognition for it promptly. As Peters and Waterman (1982) point out, one of the benefits of “management by walking around” is to help find examples of good behavior and provide immediate praise for it. However, recognition for any particular type of achievement or contribution by a person can be overdone. It is not necessary or effective to praise someone every day for the same thing.

Use an appropriate form of recognition. There is no simple, mechanical formula for determining what type of recognition to use. The appropriate form of recognition will depend on the type and importance of the achievement to be recognized, the norms and culture of the organization, and the characteristics of the manager and recipient. Whatever form of recognition is used, it must be sincere. Most people are able to detect efforts to manipulate them with praise or awards. Managers should avoid overusing a particular form of recognition, because its effect can be diminished if it becomes too commonplace.”

“Supportive leadership (or “supporting”) includes a wide variety of behaviors that show consideration, acceptance, and concern for the needs and feelings of other people. Supportive leadership helps to build and maintain effective interpersonal relationships. A manager who is considerate and friendly toward people is more likely to win their friendship and loyalty. The emotional ties that are formed make it easier to gain cooperation and support from people on whom the manager must rely to get the work done. It is more satisfying to work with someone who is friendly, cooperative, and supportive than with someone who is cold and impersonal, or worse, hostile, and uncooperative. Improvements in job satisfaction are likely to result in less absenteeism, less turnover, less alcoholism, and less drug abuse (Brief, Schuler, & Van Sell, 1981; Ganster, Fusilier, & Mayes, 1986; Kessler, Price, & Wortman, 1985). Supportive leadership may increase a subordinate’s acceptance of the leader, trust of the leader, and willingness to do extra things for the leader.
Some forms of supporting behavior increase subordinate self-confidence and reduce the amount of stress in the job. Stress is reduced by showing appreciation, listening to problems and complaints, providing assistance when necessary, expressing confidence in the person, doing things to make the work environment more enjoyable, and buffering the person from unnecessary demands by outsiders. Stress is increased by making unreasonable demands, pressuring the person to work faster, being overly critical, and insisting on compliance with unnecessary bureaucratic requirements. Although results in research on the effects of considerate, supportive leadership are not consistent, it is likely this type of behavior will improve subordinate satisfaction and performance in many situations.
Guidelines for Supporting
The following guidelines indicate ways that managers can use supporting effectively with subordinates and others (see Table 3-7 for summary).
Show acceptance and positive regard. Due to the considerable position power of most managers, subordinates are especially sensitive to indications of acceptance and approval (or rejection and criticism). Outbursts of anger, harsh criticism, and personal insults are stressful regardless of the source, but especially when the source is someone who has considerable position power. There are many ways to show acceptance and concern for people in your day-to-day behavior. Supportive leadership means being polite and considerate. Maintain a pleasant, cheerful disposition. Spend some time with subordinates to get to know them better and find out about their interests, recreational activities, family, and hobbies. Remember prior conversations with the person, including details about the person’s family and activities. If necessary, keep a notebook with this type of information about each subordinate. Be discreet about things that are told to you in confidence (don’t spread gossip about the personal lives of subordinates or team members).
Provide sympathy and support when the person is anxious or upset.
Show understanding and sympathy for someone who is upset by stress and difficulties in the work. Take time to listen to the person’s concerns. Try to understand why the person is anxious or frustrated, and when appropriate, offer coaching, advice, and personal assistance.

Table 3-7 Guidelines for Supporting

Show acceptance and positive regard.
Provide sympathy and support when the person is anxious or upset.
Bolster the person’s self-esteem and confidence.
Be willing to help with personal problems.
For example, pitching in to help subordinates do their work when the workload is unusually high is an effective way to demonstrate support. Job stress for subordinates can be reduced by buffering them from frivolous complaints and unrealistic demands made by outsiders or higher management.

Bolster the person’s self-esteem and confidence.

Indicate that the person is a valued member of the organization. Express confidence in the person when assigning a difficult task. When someone is discouraged due to job problems and setbacks in a difficult task, supportive managers will say things to help boost a person’s self-confidence. When mistakes or performance problems occur, supportive managers deal with them in a constructive manner instead of “blowing up” and criticizing the person harshly. It is important to indicate a sincere desire to help someone learn from mistakes and overcome performance problems.

Be willing to help with personal problems.

Effective managers are willing to help an employee deal with personal problems (e.g., family problems, financial problems, substance abuse) when assistance is requested or it is clearly needed because the person’s performance is being adversely affected. Examples of things that a manager can do include helping the person identify and express concerns and feelings, helping the person understand the reasons for a personal problem, providing factual information that will help the person, referring the person to professionals who can provide assistance, helping the person identify alternatives, and offering advice (Burke, Wier, & Duncan, 1976; Kaplan & Cowen, 1981).
Developing Subordinate Skills
Developing includes several managerial practices that are used to increase a subordinate’s skills and facilitate job adjustment and career advancement. Key component behaviors include mentoring, coaching, and providing developmental opportunities. Developing is usually done with a subordinate, but it may also be done with a peer, a colleague, or even with a new, inexperienced boss. Responsibility for developing subordinates can be shared with other members of the work unit who are competent and experienced. For example, some leaders assign an experienced subordinate to serve as a mentor and coach for a new employee.
The descriptive research suggests that most effective managers take an active role in developing the skills and confidence of subordinates (Bradford & Cohen, 1984; McCauley, 1986). Developing is usually regarded as primarily a relations-oriented behavior, but it can also contribute to the attainment of task-related objectives, such as improved quantity and quality of employee performance. Developing offers a variety of potential benefits for the manager, the subordinate, and the organization. One benefit is to foster mutually cooperative relationships. Potential benefits for subordinates include better job adjustment, more skill learning, greater self-confidence, and faster career advancement. The leader can gain a sense of satisfaction from helping others grow and develop. Potential benefits for the organization include higher employee commitment, higher performance, and better preparation of people to fill positions of greater responsibility in the organization as openings occur.
Guidelines for Developing
Guidelines for developing subordinate skills and confidence are described in this section and summarized in Table 3-8.
Show concern for each person’s development. The most basic principle of mentoring is to have a genuine concern about the personal development and career progress of subordinates. A manager should encourage each subordinate to set ambitious career goals that are realistic in terms of the person’s ability and consistent with the person’s interests. Encourage the person to set specific goals for self-development. Respond enthusiastically to requests for advice or assistance. Provide social–emotional support as well as career-related support.
Help the person identify ways to improve performance.
Before trying to improve task performance, it is essential to discover what is being done correctly and incorrectly. One diagnostic approach is to jointly review step by step how the person carries out the task to determine whether any essential steps are omitted, unnecessary steps are included, or key steps are performed incorrectly. When discussing ways to improve performance, it is usually better to begin by inviting the person to do a self-assessment rather than by making your own diagnosis of the person’s performance. The person may already be aware of weaknesses and will be less defensiveness if asked to identify them rather than being told by you. However, in some cases, the person does not understand why his or her performance is not better. Even a highly motivated person may be unable to improve beyond the current level of performance without assistance. When appropriate, suggest additional things the person should consider to improve performance.
Be patient and helpful when providing coaching.
An essential quality for effective coaching is patience. Don’t expect people to learn everything immediately or do everything right the first time. It takes time to learn complex skills, and learning is inhibited when someone is anxious and frustrated. A person who is experiencing difficulty in doing a task will become even more anxious and upset if you are critical and impatient. Be helpful and supportive when a person is frustrated and discouraged by slow progress or repeated mistakes. For example, tell the person how you experienced the same frustrations in mastering a particularly difficult aspect of the task. If the person lacks self-confidence, say you are confident that he or she will be able to learn a new procedure or skill.
Provide career guidance and advice about how to deal with career problems, such as lack of advancement, interpersonal conflicts, burnout, and mid-career crisis. Many subordinates need help in developing specific strategies for achieving their career objectives. It may be useful to identify career paths and promotion opportunities in the organization and explain the advantages and pitfalls of various assignments or potential job changes. Share insights learned from experience with problems or choices similar to those now faced by a subordinate. If appropriate, introduce the person to other people in the organization who can be trusted to provide good career advice. To avoid being overbearing about career advice, ask a subordinate to indicate ways you can be helpful in the career planning process.
Encourage attendance at relevant training activities.
Another way to facilitate skill development by subordinates is to encourage them to attend relevant workshops and courses. Inform subordinates about developmental opportunities and explain why they are relevant to a subordinate’s needs, interests, and career ambitions. Encourage subordinates to take advantage of opportunities to attend assessment centers or multisource feedback workshops that provide useful feedback about strengths and weaknesses. Make it easier for subordinates to attend developmental activities by planning work schedules to allow time for them. If feasible, provide financial compensation to pay for outside courses. Bring in outside experts to conduct special training sessions for subordinates.
Provide opportunities to learn from experience.
Provide special projects and assignments that require the subordinate to assume new responsibilities and apply new skills. Some of these assignments may involve delegation of responsibilities previously carried out by the manager (e.g., prepare a budget, conduct a meeting, present a proposal to top management). Sometimes the best approach for developing skills is to assign a challenging task without giving detailed instructions, and allow the person to discover how to carry out the task and to deal with problems encountered along the way. In a developmental assignment, provide coaching when needed to help the person learn from successes and failures.
Encourage coaching by peers when appropriate.
The responsibility to develop subordinates may be shared with other members of the work unit who are competent and experienced. Peers are a valuable source of advice and support in organizations. Although coaching and mentoring by peers occurs informally, it can be encouraged and facilitated by the manager. One example is the practice of assigning a competent subordinate to serve as a mentor and coach for a new employee. It is also useful to have a subordinate with special knowledge coach other employees who are less experienced.
Promote the person’s reputation. A manager can promote the reputation of a subordinate by telling superiors and peers about the person’s achievements and expertise. It is also helpful to introduce the person to important people in the organization. A subordinate’s visibility and contacts can be enhanced by selecting the person to serve on committees or projects that provide an opportunity to interact with important people in the organization. High visibility assignments provide an opportunity for a subordinate to demonstrate competence in carrying out important responsibilities.
Providing Praise and Recognition
Recognizing involves giving praise and showing appreciation to others for effective performance, significant achievements, and important contributions to the organization. Although it is most common to think of recognition as being given by a manager to subordinates, this managerial practice can also be used with peers, superiors, and people outside the work unit. The primary purpose of recognizing, especially when used with subordinates, is to strengthen desirable behavior and task commitment. Recognizing is primarily a relations behavior, but like developing, it can contribute to the attainment of task objectives as well.
Three major forms of recognizing are praise, awards, and recognition ceremonies. Praise consists of oral comments, expressions, or gestures that acknowledge a person’s accomplishments and contributions. It is the easiest form of recognition, but it is under-utilized by many managers. Most praise is given privately, but it can be used in a public ritual or ceremony as well. Leaders usually have less discretion in the use of awards or recognition ceremonies, because organizations often have programs and policies specifying the criteria and procedures for this type of recognition. Nevertheless, even low-level leaders have options to be very creative about informal awards.
Awards include things such as a certificate of achievement, a letter of commendation, a plaque, a trophy, a medal, or a ribbon. Awards can be announced in many different ways, including an article in the company newsletter, a notice posted on the bulletin board, a picture of the person (e.g., “employee of the month”) hung in a prominent place, over a public address system, in regular meetings, and at special ceremonies or rituals. Giving formal awards is a symbolic act that communicates a manager’s values and priorities to people in the organization. Thus, it is important for awards to be based on meaningful criteria rather than favoritism or arbitrary judgments. An award that is highly visible allows others to share in the process of commending the recipient and showing appreciation for his or her contributions to the success of the organization. The basis for making the award is more important than the form of the award. Some managers are creative about using awards, and they look for new and unusual awards to use with “planned spontaneity.” Examples include home-baked bread, flowers, a bottle of wine, and a picture of the employee with the CEO.
A recognition ceremony ensures that an individual’s achievements are acknowledged not only by the manager but also by other members of the organization. Recognition ceremonies can be used to celebrate the achievements of a team or work unit as well as those of an individual. Special rituals or ceremonies to honor particular employees or teams can have strong symbolic value when attended by top management, because they demonstrate concern for the aspects of behavior or performance being recognized. Milliken & Company (Peters & Austin, 1985) use a unique version of a recognition ceremony.
Once each quarter a “Corporate Sharing Rally” is held to allow work teams to brag about their achievements and contributions. Each of the “fabulous bragging sessions” has a particular theme such as improved productivity, better product quality, or reduced costs. Attendance is voluntary, but hundreds of employees show up to hear teams make short five-minute presentations describing how they have made improvements relevant to the theme. Every participant receives a framed certificate, and the best presentations (determined by peer evaluation) get special awards. In addition to celebrating accomplishments and emphasizing key values (represented by the themes), these ceremonies increase the diffusion of innovative ideas within the company.
Most studies that measure contingent reward behavior with leader behavior questionnaires find a positive correlation with subordinate satisfaction, but results for subordinate performance are inconsistent (Podsakoff, Skoder & Tov, 1982; Podsakoff & Todor, 1985). Praise is often given along with tangible rewards, and in much of the research it is difficult to separate their effects. Another source of ambiguity is the limited influence of most managers on the distribution of tangible rewards (e.g., bonus, pay increase, promotion). Formal policies, incentive programs, and union contracts for determining employee compensation and benefits usually provide very limited reward power to managers at the lower and middle levels in large organizations (see Chapter 8). It is difficult to interpret the results from surveys that fail to take into account constraints on leader reward behavior and the effects of company policies and programs (Podsakoff, Todor, Grover, & Huber, 1984).
The results are easier to interpret in a survey study or incident study when respondents describe how their leader uses praise. Survey research on the effects of praise and recognition suggest that this type of behavior can be beneficial when used in a skillful way under favorable conditions (e.g., Kim & Yukl, 1995; Yukl et al., 1990). Descriptive studies in organizations suggest that effective leaders provide more recognition to subordinates for their achievements and contributions (Kouzes & Posner, 1987; Peters & Austin, 1985). In a rare field experiment on the effects of praise, Wikoff, Anderson, and Crowell (1983) found that increasing the use of praise by supervisors resulted in improved performance by their employees.
Guidelines for Recognizing
The following guidelines for recognizing are based on the research literature on positive reinforcement and the descriptive literature on practices of managers in effective organizations. The guidelines are concerned with the following questions: what to recognize, when to give recognition, who to recognize, and what form of recognition to use (see summary in Table 3-9).
Recognize a variety of contributions and achievements. Managers tend to think of recognition as appropriate only for major achievements, thereby limiting their opportunity to gain the benefits from this potent managerial practice. Recognition should be provided for a variety of other things, including demonstration of initiative and extra effort in carrying out an assignment or task; achievement of challenging performance goals and standards; personal sacrifices made to accomplish a task or objective; helpful suggestions and innovative ideas for improving efficiency, productivity, or the quality of the work unit’s products or services; special efforts to help someone else (e.g., coworker, customer) deal with a problem; and significant contributions made to the success of other individuals or teams.
Before recognition can be given for contributions and accomplishments, it is necessary to determine what things are important for the success of the work unit and consistent with the values and ideals of the organization. It is helpful to spend some time each day looking for examples of effective behavior to recognize. Many managers tend to notice and criticize ineffective behavior by subordinates or peers but fail to notice and praise effective behavior. It is also helpful to establish periodic awards, such as the “employee of the week,” that require a manager to spend some time on a regular basis looking for examples of effective performance among subordinates. Kouzes and Posner (1987) recommend setting a personal goal to find and praise at least one subordinate each day for some exemplary behavior or significant contribution.
Recognize improvements in performance.
Some managers believe that it is inappropriate to recognize performance improvements if an individual’s level of performance is still only average or substandard. However, some form of recognition for improvements is important to encourage and strengthen efforts toward additional improvement. Improvements can be recognized in a way that also communicates an expectation of continuing progress toward excellence. Recognition of improvement is especially relevant for new employees who are just learning a new task and for employees who do not have much self-confidence.
Recognize commendable efforts that failed.
Another fallacy is that recognition must be limited to successful efforts. Sometimes recognition is necessary for unsuccessful efforts to perform an important activity with a low probability of success. For example, Ore-Ida fires off a cannon to celebrate the “perfect failure” when research scientists terminate a project that is failing rather than prolong it at great cost to the company (Peters & Waterman, 1982). In another example, when someone suggests an improvement but it does not appear to be feasible, the manager should thank the person and explain why the idea could not be implemented in order to encourage further suggestions in the future.
Do not limit recognition to high-visibility jobs.
Everyone has a desire for recognition and appreciation, and even people who are a little embarrassed by recognition still desire and value it. It is a common tendency to provide recognition to individuals whose performance and achievements are highly visible, while largely ignoring people whose contributions are less visible and whose performance is harder to measure. It is better to recognize contributions and achievements by employees in all jobs, regardless of their status or visibility. Recognition should be given to people in support functions as well as to people in line functions with easily quantifiable performance, such as production and sales. With a little effort, it is possible to find examples of effective behavior and indicators of successful performance for any type of job.
Do not limit recognition to a few best performers.
The question of who to recognize also relates closely to the basis for giving recognition and the amount of recognition. Some managers believe that recognition should be limited to a few best performers in each type of job, thereby creating strong competition among people. However, Peters and Austin (1985) found that effective organizations recognize many winners rather than only a few. For example, it is better to provide awards for the top 75 percent of sales representatives than only for the top 10 percent. It is better to give an award to everyone who exceeds a challenging performance standard rather than to recognize only the person with the best performance. Extreme forms of competition create undesirable side effects, such as unwillingness to help competitors and resentment by people who perform exceptionally well but receive little or no recognition merely because someone else does a little better, often due to a lucky break. It is feasible to recognize many “heroes” or “winners” and still have different amounts of recognition for different levels of performance. Unless the people with the best performance receive a greater amount of recognition, their accomplishments will be unnecessarily diminished and the desired benefits from recognition may not be realized.
Provide specific recognition.
Praise is more likely to be successful if it is specific. Instead of a general comment commending someone for doing an assignment well, it is better to explain why you think the person did the assignment well. Indicate the basis for your judgment, point out examples of special effort or effective behavior, and explain why the person’s accomplishments are important to you and to the organization. In the case of praise for good suggestions, explain how the person’s ideas were used and how they benefited the organization or contributed to the success of a project. Specific praise is more believable than general praise, because it shows that you actually know what the person has done and have a sound basis for a positive evaluation. In addition, citing specific examples of effective behavior communicates what behaviors you value and guides the person toward repeating these behaviors in the future.
Provide timely recognition.

Research on positive reinforcement suggests that it is more effective when given reasonably soon after the behavior to be reinforced. Thus, managers should try to identify effective behavior and provide recognition for it promptly. As Peters and Waterman (1982) point out, one of the benefits of “management by walking around” is to help find examples of good behavior and provide immediate praise for it. However, recognition for any achievement or contribution by a person can be overdone. It is not necessary or effective to praise someone every day for the same thing.

Use an appropriate form of recognition. There is no simple, mechanical formula for determining what type of recognition to use. The appropriate form of recognition will depend on the type and importance of the achievement to be recognized, the norms and culture of the organization, and the characteristics of the manager and recipient. Whatever form of recognition is used, it must be sincere. Most people are able to detect efforts to manipulate them with praise or awards. Managers should avoid overusing a particular form of recognition, because its effect can be diminished if it becomes too commonplace.”

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